Mandy Lingard, 50, Mount Martha, Vic
The sky was clear and the sun was beating down. With the house to myself, I decided to make the most of the beautiful day. My hubby Geoff, 51, and I are lucky to have a very private backyard. So after settling down on the grass with a good book, I felt I might as well try to get a bit of colour before summer. Stripping down to my undies, I was feeling pretty relaxed until a strange whirring noise started above me. Looking up, I saw a round, black object flying through the air.
What was that?
It was about 60cm wide and looked like a kid’s toy, but I couldn’t see anyone around who might be operating it. I tried to ignore it, but later that evening I mentioned my strange encounter to Geoff.
‘It was probably just some kids messing around,’ he reassured me.
It didn’t think anything more of it until a few weeks later when we were walking past our neighbour’s house.
‘Look, it’s up for sale. They’ve got an aerial shot and you can see all of our yard,’ said Geoff, walking towards a 1.8-metre billboard outside their home. But as I peered at the photo, a sense of horror gripped me. There, in the picture, you could see our lawn. And someone was clearly sunbaking on it in their undies.
Me! My cheeks flushed with anger and embarrassment as we hurried away.
Back home, I did some research and realised the humming I’d heard in the garden that day must have been a drone – an unmanned aerial vehicle operated by remote control. They’re increasingly being used to take photos from above, and I realised the real-estate agents must have enlisted a drone to take a sweeping image of the property for sale.
I was troubled enough about my undie-clad body being on display on the billboard, but there was worse to come. To my horror, I found out the photo of me was also in the estate agent’s magazine and on the internet. When I bumped into a friend at the shops, she made a joke about it. Then my son, Tyler, 11, said he’d been teased.
Although my other two kids, Jessica, 25, and Rusty, 20, were less bothered, I was mortified. I’m a grandma to Indi, three, and felt it wasn’t appropriate for me to have a picture in my undies plastered all over town. It was an invasion of my privacy! So I decided to speak out about it.
Soon, an article appeared in our local paper, and before long my story had gone viral. There were TV crews camped out near the house and the phone was ringing nonstop.
I decided to remain strong. I’m not an exhibitionist but I needed to make people aware that they too could be snapped by mistake. The estate agent came that afternoon to put a sticker over the picture. They also apologised and promised they hadn’t seen I was in the photo before it was printed.
Since then, I’ve discovered there’s no legislation in place to stop people using drones – even over private property. So I’m now in the process of writing to authorities to see if the law can be changed.
Of course, a lot of people make jokes about the incident. Although I can see a funny side, I’m also shocked that my privacy could be invaded so easily. I know I certainly won’t be sunbaking in my undies again any time soon.
Originally published in that's life! Issue 3, 2014.